Government plans to ban solid urea fertiliser would push up farm input costs, say industry leaders who have pledged to fight the proposal.
A Defra consultation launched last month is seeking views on reducing ammonia emissions from solid urea fertilisers for growing plants and crops. The government says emissions are bad for human health and must be reduced.
Some 87% of UK ammonia emissions come from farming. The government says taking action solid urea fertilisers will reduce pollution. It has committed to reducing emissions by 8% of 2005 levels by 2020 – with a 16% reduction by 2030.
The consultation presents three options: a total ban on solid urea fertilisers; stabilising urea fertiliser with the addition of a urease inhibitor; and restrictions so solid urea fertiliser can only be spread from 15 January to 31 March.
While each of these options will support the commitment to reducing ammonia emissions, the government says a ban on solid urea fertilisers would achieve around 31% of the ammonia reduction target by 2030.
Reducing ammonia emissions will significantly reduce nitrogen deposition to land and in turn help reduce damage to peat bogs, which are an important carbon sink, thereby helping to tackle climate change.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Ammonia emissions from agriculture are causing harm to sensitive and important habitats by making soils more acidic which damages the growth of some plant species, impacting on biodiversity.
“They are also harmful to human health, and we welcome views on how we can address their use in agriculture so that we can all breathe cleaner air.
“Any changes will need to be made in a way that is realistic and achievable for farmers, but which help us to achieve our ambitious targets for better air quality. We are committed to working with farmers to help them do this.”
NFU combinable crops board chair Matt Culley said: “Farmers have made great strides in reducing key agricultural emissions over recent decades through more efficient targeting of fertiliser applied to farmland and held in the soil.
“Urea is the most commonly used form of nitrogen fertiliser in the world and an important tool for our farmers in helping produce the nation’s food. It offers several advantages when used alongside ammonium nitrate and is safer to handle.”
The consultation closes on 26 January 2021. For details, visit www.bit.ly/UreaBan.